I’m in a hotel room. There are french windows and a balcony outside. Over nearby rooftops I catch a glimpse of the sea. There’s a swimming pool below my room and, across the road, a steep, dark green, wooded hill. The houses nearby are tall, with high ceilings, many-roomed, of grey stone, and are Victorian. Garden shrubs are old and tall, and somewhat sombre. There are gravel drives.
It’s cold. This room, in my mind, is as it was last September, when Mrs Llew and I stayed at the hotel, together with our daughter and her family.
Now, as I look back, coach parties gather in its lounges. It is a popular place and I pick up the accents here, on our south coast, of our northern counties, Yorkshire and Lancashire.
There is an excellent band and a small ballroom. A group of women – they’re in their middle years – joins together in a line dance, to the music of the 1940s. The dancers are graceful, their movements understated, while their pleasure is manifest. They are utterly together. They share a history, of neighbourhood and memories, I believe.
My small granddaughter – with total lack of self-consciousness or display – and her father, also step on to the dance floor, and improvise their own steps to the music of Glenn Miller and his time.
Now, many months later, outside our little Town Hall, I lean on my stick and gaze out over the ancient cobble stones, and wait for the clock to strike 12. Mrs Llew is shopping in Superdrug. It’s a golden moment in a summer of rain. It holds every passer-by in its light: young families, the ‘Big Issue’ seller, the neighbours, young and old, who stop to chat.
It’s a moment out of time. As is my memory of the hotel by the sea, and of my young family – and the guests there from near and far, dancing to a swing band.
I have a photograph of my family all under grey skies, on the beach, paddling in our raincoats, in the surf, while my young granddaughter races across the sand, a sprite in the wild wind.
Moments also, in time.